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Saturday, January 31, 2015

This week's books

Three books on my shelf this week ...

The first is a new one I just bought - Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown by John Jackson Miller. I'm just at the beginning but it's pretty fun so far .... Captain Picard and Admiral Riker are pitted against each other. You can read an excerpt from the book at the link.

The second is a science fiction novel from the library that I've read twice before - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It's very popular (over 4000 customer reviews), award-winning, and soon to be made into a film. The version I got from the library is in audio, with Wil Wheaton narrating ....

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

The third book is also from the library - Exploring and Using the Power of Tarot (PS - See Hans Urs von Balthasar's afterword to 'Meditations on the Tarot'). I picked it up when I saw it sitting among the new books because the last episode I'd seen of Sleepy Hollow had Ichabod Crane and his wife (who he has only recently discovered to be a witch) using a tarot card to help solve a series of murders ...

Ichabod: This was no random killing. This was a specific ritual meant to invoke the Hanged Man. The twelfth card of major arcana from the tarot.

Katrina: Since when have you been reading the tarot?

Ichabod: Since someone left a deck in our parlor one summer. I assumed it was for recreation.

Katrina: Well, now you know better.


Friday, January 30, 2015

"Encountering Jesus"

Here's a November 2014 video of a talk between Jesuits James Martin and Richard Leonard. Fr. Martin is Skyped from New York to Fr. Leonard in Australia. The theme is "Encountering Jesus" and Fr. Martin talks about his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage ....

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Keith Ward: another interview

I came upon this 2004 interview with Keith Ward in The Spectator - A free market in religion. Here's just the beginning ...

At nine in the morning, Cumnor in Oxfordshire looks like the setting for a Miss Marple mystery. Cotswold cottages run around the outside bend of a narrow high street and on the other side a grassy bank rises up to a graveyard. Nothing moves except the tops of fir trees growing among the tombstones.

Standing in front of St Michael’s church I can see the roof of the Reverend Keith Ward’s house. Cumnor isn’t quite the sort of parish you’d expect to find the former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, a liberal intellectual whom the Archbishop of Canterbury calls ‘a much loved and admired thinker’. In his book The Case for Religion Keith Ward says that it is imperative that all religions accept that other faiths contain truth too. I wonder how that goes down during the Sunday sermon in St Michael’s ...

One down, so many more to go

On Monday I managed to capture one of the stray cats, Lucy, and we took her to the vet to get spayed. Since I didn't know if I could catch any of them, we couldn't have an appointment so we had to board her for that day and have them do the operation the next day. Then we left her there until the morning after the operation, since I didn't think I would be able to keep her restrained after we got back home. What I didn't realize was that the vet would keep her in her cat carrier the whole time because they considered her a feral cat. When we did let her out of the carrier yesterday morning, she ran off and hid. I didn't see her again until this morning ... at least I think it was her ... bad eyes ... and she wouldn't come anywhere near me. Before the vet visit she had started to trust me enough to let me pet her, but now she thinks I'm not her friend anymore :( What's depressing is that there are still five or six more female cats and three males that I guess I have to try to catch and take to the vet. I hate this.

Super Bowl commercials

I've never seen a Super Bowl on tv and never plan to, but I do hear about the commercials that are shown during the game. Most are purely entertainment, like this one about the upcoming Terminator movie ...

But this other commercial is special - Watch the First Anti-Domestic Violence Super Bowl Commercial ...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Keith Ward interview

I came upon an interview with Keith Ward today. It was pretty interesting in that he spoke not only about religion, but he also mentioned the village where he lives, Cumnor, which was once part of Abingdon Abbey.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


- The latest pic in my France calendar is of the town of Colmar where the Unterlinden Museum lives which contains the Isenheim Altarpiece (see above).

- On Holocaust Remembrance Day, I'd like to recommend a movie I posted about in 2010 - Nuremberg. As I wrote in my original post ... The movie (three hours long) starred Alec Baldwin as Robert H. Jackson, a Justice of the Supreme Court who was chosen by President Truman in 1945 to be the chief United States prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal, the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals. Christopher Plummer played Sir David Maxwell Fyfe,1st Earl of Kilmuir, one of the British prosecutors at the trial, and Brian Cox played Nazi Hermann Göring, Hitler's designated successor and commander of the Luftwaffe .... One of the most disturbing parts of the movie was when a film made by allied soldiers of their liberating of concentration camps was shown at the trial.

- How Did the Homeless Survive Last Night?

- A new Gresham College lecture by Keith Ward, Experience and the Spiritual Dimension. Hopefully the video version will appear soon, but you can read the transcript now at the link. Here's just a bit of it from the beginning ...

[...] There may be many reasons why the word ‘spirituality’ has become important in our society. One of them is that the institutions of traditional religion have come under much criticism for their seemingly authoritarian attitudes which, both with regard to modern scientific knowledge and to rapidly changing moral beliefs, seem too many to be out of touch with reality. Another is that the encounter of differing claims to apparently absolute revelation in an increasingly globalised world has often led to scepticism about how one could possibly choose between them, and to a refusal to sign up to any of them. Spirituality can then be seen as a personal search for objective value and meaning, not restricted to any ancient authorities, but perhaps able to take some elements, and reject others, from many old religious traditions.

Later in these lectures I intend to address both these points, and argue that things are not as bad for religion as they might seem. At present I simply want to address the fact that although in Britain and perhaps in Europe generally participation in religious institutions is very low, there is still a widespread feeling that there is something more to human life than just making money and gaining pleasure or social status. There is a spiritual dimension which could give objective value and meaning to human existence, and which it might be possible to experience ...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Stargardt disease

In the news, mention of a woman with the same eye disease I have. It's rare, so I was interested. She is using eSight glasses to see her newborn baby ... Legally Blind Mom Sees Newborn for First Time Through Special Glasses. This is nice, of course, but also disappointing because the glasses can only help so much: they are like the personally wearable high tech (and very expensive) version of me making the computer screen background gray, making all the fonts huge, and lowering the brightness ... it helps me see what's on the screen better, but it doesn't make my vision normal and there's still stuff I cannot see.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d'Aix

The latest photo on my France calendar is of Aix-en-Provence, where the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour lives ....

It is built on the site of the 1st century Roman forum of Aix. Built and re-built from the 12th until the 19th century, it includes Romanesque, Gothic and Neo-Gothic elements, as well as Roman columns and parts of the baptistery from a 6th-century Christian church. It is a national monument of France.

Here are some photos from Wikipedia Commons ...

One of the most well known works of art at the cathedral is the triptych of the Burning Bush, by Nicolas Froment ...

Here's a detail from the carving on the doors ...

if you click to enlarge this photo of the interior of the cathedral, you can see a large photo of Pope Francis on the wall ;) ...

Friday, January 23, 2015

American Sniper & Enemy at the Gates

Reading about the movie, American Sniper...

a 2014 American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall. It is based on Chris Kyle's autobiography American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. With 255 kills, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Defense, Kyle is the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history. His widow Taya Renae Kyle was heavily involved with the making of the film. The film stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller with Luke Grimes, Kyle Gallner, Sam Jaeger, Jake McDorman, and Cory Hardrict in supporting roles.

Here's a review of the movie - What people get wrong about 'American Sniper' - and here's a trailer ...

I haven't seen the movie yet and I'm not sure if I will, but what struck me was its similarity to a 2001 film about another real life sniper. The movie was Enemy at the Gates, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, and starring Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, and Ed Harris.

The film's title is taken from William Craig's 1973 nonfiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, which describes the events surrounding the Battle of Stalingrad from 1942–1943. It is based on a duel mentioned in the book that developed between the legendary Soviet sniper Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev and his German counterpart, Major Erwin König, as they stalk each other during the battle.

I posted about Enemy at the Gates here - How to remain a pacifist . Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and here's a trailer ...

There are some similarities between the two snipers - both were taught to use a gun hunting as boys, both were eventually confronted by expert snipers from the opposing forces, but their lives ended very differently: Kyle was murdered at a shooting range a few years after he left the service but Zaitsev lived a long life, dying at age 76 in 1991. Also different would be the perceived morality of the theaters they operated within as snipers .... Zaitsev defended his country against a Nazi invasion in what Wikipedia calls the single largest and bloodiest battle in the history of warfare, while Kyle's war and his service seem more ethically ambiguous.


A strange looking pine cone under the pine tree ...

A blue jay getting a drink at the bird bath ...

The sunny leafy path ....

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A new gospel and King Tut

In the news is the discovery of what might be the earliest gospel (of Mark) which was found in an Egyptian mummy mask ... Was oldest gospel really found in a mummy mask?, by Joel Baden of Yale and Candida Moss of Notre Dame.

As the article points out, most mummy masks were not made of gold and precious stones like that of Tutankhamun ...

But they were instead a kind of papier-mâché creation, often using documents as fodder, and thus they are a source of interest to historians ...

The article goes on to note that the actual manuscript has not been published, won't be for some time, and has only been viewed by a select few, so it's hard to determine if it really is what it purports to be. And the ethics of destroying mummy masks to get at possible ancient texts is also brought up ...

[U]ntil the scholarly world has been granted access to this papyrus, the public statements made about it are no more revelatory than if we announced that we had found Moses' private copy of Genesis in a hummus container, and we'll show it to you later. There is, however, one bit of information about this text and its discovery that can be discussed now, without having even seen it: the fact that it was uncovered by destroying an ancient Egyptian mummy mask .....

"The destruction of mummy masks, though legal, falls into an ethically gray area right now because of the difficult choices scientists have to make in the lab when working with them," said Douglas Boin, a professor of history at St. Louis University. "We have to ask ourselves, do we value the cultural heritage of Egypt as something worth preserving in itself, or do we see it simply as vehicle for harvesting Christian texts?"

Check out the article for more.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Tonight on the way back from the store with my sister, we almost ran over a little Chihuahua dog. My sister got out, and picked him up and took him around to the houses nearby, but he didn't belong to anyone. Guess who got dragooned into caring for him tonight. My sister promised she would take him to the SPCA tomorrow. Meanwhile it's just him and me ... and ten stray cats :( Actually, he's very well behaved and sweet. My sis bought some dog food and he inhaled it - all his ribs are sticking out. Here he is, curled up in one of my old cat beds ....

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Catholics breeding like rabbits

In his interview on the plane from the Philippines, Pope Francis had something to say about the size of Catholic families. Here's a bit from the interview (the whole thing can be read here) ...

Christoph Schmidt: [... snip ...] My question: you have talked about the many children in the Philippines, about your joy because there are so many children, but according to some polls the majority of Filipinos think that the huge growth of Filipino population is one of the most important reasons for the enormous poverty in the country. A Filipino woman gives birth to an average of three children in her life, and the Catholic position concerning contraception seem to be one of the few question on which a big number of people in the Philippines do not agree with the Church. What do you think about that?

Pope Francis: [... snip ...] the key word, to give you an answer, and the one the Church uses all the time, and I do too, is responsible parenthood. How do we do this? With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do carry out a responsible parenthood. That example I mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is a an irresponsibility That woman might say 'no, I trust in God.’ But, look, God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that -- excuse the language -- that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this ...

The good news - the pope recognizes that having as many children as possible is not a reasonable or moral goal, especially given over-population, its carbon footprint, and climate change, not to mention poverty like that found in the Philippines.

The bad news - he doubled down on the contraception ban and instead implied that there were many other ways to limit pregnancies. One can only wonder what he meant by that .... NFP, non-procreative sex, abstinence? He fails to acknowledge that in many relationships women have little choice about if, when, and how they have sex. Of course, in most countries like the US, nearly all Catholic *do* use contraception, but in places like the Philippines, where the church still has a death grip on politics, contraception can be difficult to obtain..

Meanwhile, German rabbit breeders: Our bunnies are chaste :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Église paroissiale Saint-Jean Baptiste

Reading today about the Église paroissiale Saint-Jean Baptiste. It's ... the main church of the small city of Niederhaslach in Alsace. The building is widely considered one of the finest and most ornate examples of Gothic architecture and Gothic art in the Bas-Rhin departement of France. Here are some Wikipedia Commons photos ...

- A wyvern in the church cemetery

- Choir stalls and the altar

- a gargoyle on the west facade of the church

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mouse the kitten :)

Canal du Midi

Today's offering from the France calendar is the Canal du Midi ...

a 241 km (150 mi) long canal in Southern France (French: le Midi). It was originally named the Canal royal en Languedoc (Royal Canal in Languedoc) but the French revolutionaries renamed it to Canal du Midi in 1789. It was considered at the time to be one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century.

Friday, January 16, 2015


- Today's pic from my France calendar was of Les Menuires ... a ski resort in the Belleville valley of Les Trois Vallées between Saint-Martin-de-Belleville and Val Thorens. Owned and operated by Compagnie des Alpes, It is in the Savoie département of France. The resort has 48 restaurants, 39 ski lifts and 62 trails.

- Philippines' divorce ban - nearly unique in the world - shows church's power in country

- I saw mention of what looks to be an interesting book today: Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

- Tee hee ;) Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle

- Michael Novak now has a patheos blog: Coming down to Earth

- Pope Francis gives freedom of speech a cruel punch ... and ... On Charlie Hebdo Pope Francis is using the wife-beater’s defence

The Pope visits the Philippines

I see that while in the Philippines, the Pope has reaffirmed the church's contraception ban and has criticized the government for not helping the poor.

What he doesn't talk about is how the Church's opposition to birth control in the Philippines has contributed to the terrible poverty there. The Philippines has one of the fastest growing populations in Asia (100 million people), and an unintended pregnancy rate of 50%.

Mind-boggling that the Church chooses to make such a stand on such a questionable and contested teaching.

Some reading ... Family planning and the Philippines

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Pope, Ignatius, and Jesus on punching people

The Pope has said that if people say something mean about your mom (or your religion) it's ok to punch them ... The Pope Got It Completely and Utterly Wrong

This reminds me of an event in the life of Ignatius of Loyola. Here's a description from Ignatius and the Donkey ....

Shortly after his conversion, the ex-soldier and courtier Ignatius was riding down a dusty road in Spain in the company of a Muslim Moor. They were discussing religion, and, not surprisingly, they disagreed on a few points. The Moor angrily ended the discussion and rode off. As a parting shot, he made some insulting remarks about the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ignatius was outraged. He thought it might be his knightly duty to defend the honor of Mary by killing the Moor, but he wasn’t sure that would be consistent with his new faith. He left the decision up to the donkey he was riding. They were approaching a crossroads. If the donkey took the road that the Moor took, Ignatius would follow and kill him. If the beast took the other road, he would let him go. The donkey took the other road.

What impresses me about this story is that Ignatius told it. He included it in his Autobiography, which he wrote near the end of his life. At the time Ignatius was a much-honored churchman. He was regarded as a master of discernment and a font of spiritual wisdom. So Ignatius told a story about himself that made him look foolish and dangerously misguided. I like the humility of that decision. Ignatius is saying to me: beware of pride. You’re not as smart as you think you are.

And this makes me think of Jesus too, that guy who criticized religious authority and who advised always turning the other cheek and forgiving, even in the face of his own death. Are we to believe that if those who taunted and tortured him had instead insulted his mother, all hell would have broken loose?

I think the need to punch people who insult one's mother or religion has nothing to do with defending the honor of either. It has to do with protecting one's fragile self-esteem by silencing any challenges.

Further reading ... Even Americans Who Don't Favor Mocking Religion Support The Right To Do It ... How the Catholic Church made its peace with Charlie Hebdo ... What’s the point of lampooning religion? To upset the religious? ... Pope Francis gives freedom of speech a cruel punch ... On Charlie Hebdo Pope Francis is using the wife-beater’s defence ... Pope Francis Is Wrong About 'Charlie Hebdo.' We Have a Right to Make Fun of Religion.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The French Jesuits, The Via Dolorosa, and the Pope in Sri Lanka

- From Études , French Jesuit journal publishes anti-Catholic cartoons in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo .
UPDATE: the Jesuit publication withdrew the Chaarlie Hebdo drawings and changed the post. Part of what they *had* posted was "It is a sign of strength to be able to laugh at some traits of the institution to which we belong, because it is a way of saying that what we value is beyond always transient and imperfect forms. Humour regarding faith is a good antidote to fanaticism and a spirit of seriousness which tends to take everything literally."

- Oops! Jesus’ Last Steps Are in the Wrong Place from Candida Moss

- The Tablet has a blog post about the Pope's trip to Sri Lanka, so I thought I'd mention too my own past post ... Sri Lanka: the pope, the Jesuits, the inquisition, and the civil war

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The next Jesus movie

There's an article at Christianity Today - Ewan McGregor and Rodrigo Garcia On Jesus, Satan, and 'Last Days in the Desert' - about the upcoming Jesus movie which stars Ewan McGregor and is directed by Rodrigo Garcia (the son of Gabriel García Márquez). Here's a bit of it ...

[...] Three of the four gospels tell this story: after his baptism by John, Jesus goes into the Judean Desert to fast and pray for forty days. As recounted in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Satan tempts Jesus during this time in three conversations, and Jesus resists. By the time he leaves, he is ready to start his public ministry.

Last Days imagines a story set during the final few days in the wilderness. After over a month of solitary wandering, Yeshua [Jesus] is tired, dirty, exhausted, hungry, and lonely, weary of not hearing his Father’s voice. He happens upon a family in the wilderness who recognize that he is a holy man and offer him shelter and hospitality; in return, he offers them some help with carpentry.

The father, played by Irish actor Ciaran Hinds (Road to Perdition; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), has a relationship with his son familiar to anyone who has ever been a teenager: equal parts love and confusion, trying to both connect with him and protect him, but not sure how to do either. The son (Tye Sheridan, the brilliant young American actor seen in Mud, The Tree of Life, and Joe) obeys his father and cares for his sick mother (celebrated Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer), but dreams of living in Jerusalem.

Yeshua forms relationships with both the boy and his father over the course of their conversations, but he has another conversation partner: Satan himself, a suaver version of Yeshua with a glint in his eye. Satan taunts and tempts Yeshua away from the work that lies ahead, suggesting that the Father doesn’t really love him ...

[I]n the Scriptural account, Satan was once Lucifer, the most beautiful of all the angels that God created, who was cast out from heaven because of his pride. Garcia’s take on the fallout of this (I don’t want to spoil it) is marvelously heartbreaking. He conceived of the character as “the black sheep, the punished child. It makes you feel [like] these two are (at least metaphorical) children of a father whose opinion counts a lot to them. That’s any child, really.” McGregor agrees in his portrayal of the relationship between Jesus and Satan. “There was a jealousy there, because Jesus knows his father in a way that Satan can never know his father,” he says. “I played both characters as real people, no question.” ....

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Paris march

I'm reading in the news tonight about the millions who marched in France against terrorism. As this editorial in The New York Times states ... No perceived provocation, no grievance and certainly no religious conviction justifies killing those who wield only a pen.

Today's muzak

Heard at the stores today :) ...


- It's snowing in Jerusalem :) ... Visit Dina's bog to see some photos

- Speaking of Cardinal Burke's assertion about women and church, here's a past post from The Evangelical Pulpit ... The Masculinity Myth: The Real Reason Men Don’t Go to Church from pastor Douglas Bursch

- A couple of articles about the Charlie Hebdo attack ... How the Catholic Church made its peace with Charlie Hebdo at The Week, and this from Heythrop College philosophy professor, Stephen Law: What’s the point of lampooning religion? To upset the religious?

Friday, January 09, 2015

Sénanque Abbey

The picture on my France calendar today was of the town of Gordes (see above). There's a lot of interesting stuff in the town, including Sénanque Abbey, which was ... founded in 1148 under the patronage of Alfant, bishop of Cavaillon, and Ramon Berenguer II, Count of Barcelona, Count of Provence, by Cistercian monks. Here are some photos of the abbey from Wikipedia ...

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Frank Brennan SJ on the Pope, the Jesuits, and the Dirty War

UPDATE: 1/9/15 ... I'm interested in contemporary Jesuit history so it's interesting to read about the interactions between Jesuits in Argentina and Rome when Pope Francis was a bishop, both in Austen Ivereigh's book on Pope Francis, and in Jesuit Frank Brennan's response to the book. Was that interaction different than the interaction between Rome and the Jesuit of El Salvador who were murdered? Were there differences between Jesuit Superior Generals Arrupe, Kolvenbach, and Nicolás? And why did Francis/Bergoglio became a pope despite the fact that Ignatius of Loyola didn't want Jesuits to become even bishops, much less popes? This kind of stuff usually doesn't make it into the everyday news, so I'm glad Ivereigh's book has brought it up. I've added to this post Ivereigh's response to Brennan's criticisms of his book - see below.

In an earlier post I mentioned the book by Austen Ivereigh about Pope Francis (Damian Thompson had written about it and later David Gibson did as well).

Today I saw that Australian Jesuit Frank Brennan has a review of the same book at ABC Religion & Ethics - Rise of the Great Reformer: Austen Ivereigh and the Making of Pope Francis.

An interesting part of Brennan's book review touches on how Francis, then Bergoglio, interacted with other Jesuits, both in Rome and Argentina, before he was pope ... how he severed Jesuit connections to become a diocesan bishop, and also about his questionable supervision of fellow Jesuits during Argentina's Dirty War ...

[...] I take issue with Ivereigh on .... his narrow reliance on a few disgruntled Jesuits to explain the complexity of Bergoglio's relationship with the Argentine Jesuit province; his clearance of Bergoglio for failing to protect Jesuits during the dirty war without providing a coherent explanation for what occurred ....

Ivereigh also investigates at length the divisions in the Jesuits' Argentine province that culminated in Bergoglio, who became novice master soon after ordination in 1969 then provincial at the absurdly young age of 37. He followed that appointment with one as rector of the theological college near Buenos Aires and was responsible for overseeing the formation of all young Jesuits. He was then banished to Germany to pursue doctoral studies, only to return within the year and in time to meet Pope John Paul II for the first time at World Youth Day in Buenos Aires. Despite the conflicts in the Argentine province, he won a popular election among then Jesuits in 1987 to attend a Jesuit General Congregation in Rome.

While in Rome Bergoglio did not form as warm a relationship with the new superior general, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, as he had with his predecessor, Pedro Arrupe. On his return, Bergoglio could not find his niche in the Argentine province. Antonio Quarracino, who was waiting in the wings to be appointed archbishop of Buenos Aires, had told Kolvenbach that "the Argentine church has great expectations of Father Bergoglio."

Bergoglio departed Buenos Aires and ended up staying in a small guest room at the main Jesuit residence in Cordoba between June 1990 and May 1992. This was Bergoglio's real desert experience where he discerned his future. Essentially he cut contact with most Jesuits; he hardly spoke to most of those with whom he was living. He kept regular contact with key Argentine bishops. Quarracino had just been installed as the new archbishop of Buenos Aires when Bergoglio moved to Cordoba; from the outset, he was keen to have Bergoglio appointed as his coadjutor bishop. The two were in constant contact; and it came to pass.

In May 1992, the apostolic nuncio met with Bergoglio at Cordoba airport and told him that he was to be appointed as auxiliary with an announcement to be made on 20 May 1992. Bergoglio's second career as a churchman had thus begun. His time of waiting was over. He maintained social contact with his Jesuit friends but severed his relationship with the Jesuit hierarchy. Only when elected pope did Bergoglio again visit the Jesuit Curia in Rome. Kolvenbach's successor Adolfo Nicolas told the Jesuits of the world "not to allow ourselves to be swept away by distractions from the past, which may paralyse our hearts and lead us to interpret reality with values that are not inspired by the Gospel."

In telling this part of the story, Ivereigh analyses the motivations and approaches of the various Jesuit camps in the Argentine province. He lays much of the blame at the feet of those intelligent, socially reflective Jesuits who ran the Center for Social Research and Action (CIAS) of the Argentine province. He thinks this small cabal campaigned against Bergoglio because he was too weak on social justice.

I think this may be too simplistic. Bergoglio obviously had great admirers and great critics in the Jesuit province before and after serving as provincial. There were young Jesuits in formation who admired him and walked his footsteps; there were others who thought him a difficult ex-provincial who found it difficult to let go the reins of office once a provincial of a different hue was in the saddle.

Some of his critics were those who were long suspicious about his failure as provincial to protect two Jesuits, Franz "Pancho" Jalics and Oswaldo Yorio, who were "disappeared" and tortured during the dirty war. The journalist Horacio Verbitsky, who was most critical of Bergoglio in this whole affair, gained his most direct information within the Jesuits from Juan Luis Moyano, who had been director of CIAS and was later an assistant to provincial Ignacio Garcia-Mata, who also had been a director of CIAS. Ivereigh is right to conclude:

"It would be extraordinary if, in navigating the elaborate tangle of conflicting loyalties and allegiances in the province at the time, he had made no mistakes. But whatever they were, he neither betrayed the two Jesuits nor did anything to facilitate their capture."

He was, moreover, "a diligent, caring provincial trying to move them in the best direction while respecting their freedom."

There is one hypothesis that Ivereigh does not entertain, but which on all the evidence seems likely. Bergoglio was worried about the safety of his men constituting a community living in a poor area during the dirty war. Two members of this community were Jesuit theologians. What would army and police personnel think if they found out that theologians were living in such a community? They would be likely to think they were there to ferment intellectual inquiry and trouble. The priests would be suspected Marxists or liberation theologians, unsympathetic to the ruling elite in a Catholic country.

Bergoglio consulted Arrupe about the matter. Arrupe advised that the community be shut down. Bergoglio discussed the matter with the two men who said they could not in conscience leave the community. Such disobedience by a Jesuit would require action by superiors. Bergoglio decided not to dismiss the men from the society but to give them time to seek out a bishop who might be happy to take them. If he had dismissed them, no bishop would touch them. It was during this time of seeking other options that the two men were apprehended. Ivereigh is certainly right to report that "after their capture, [he] moved heaven and earth to secure their release."

Austen Ivereigh responded to Brennan's criticisms of his book - Setting the Record Straight on Pope Francis: A Reply to Frank Brennan. Here's his response to the parts I quoted above from Brennan ...

Bergoglio and the Jesuits

Father Brennan took my breath away with his claim that I narrowly relied "on a few disgruntled Jesuits to explain the complexity of Bergoglio's relationship with the Argentine Jesuit province." The Great Reformer is the first biography systematically to account for the breakdown in relations between Bergoglio and his followers and the Jesuit curia in Rome; it is the part of the book on which I expended more time and resources than any other, endlessly comparing accounts between Jesuits in Argentina and Rome.

Who are the "disgruntled" Jesuits he refers to? The only ex-Jesuits I relied upon for testimony - because almost all of his contemporaries in the 1960s later left - were those who studied with him in the 1960s. For his period as provincial and rector during the 1970s and 1980s, I list at the back of the book some 18 Jesuits I interviewed, who would be astonished to be described as "disgruntled": they are in Argentina, Chile and Rome, and include four former provincials, as well as present-day rectors, theologians and historians and college principals. They offered very different narratives about Bergoglio's time as provincial and rector; and my account is drawn from endless to-ing and fro-ing between these witnesses, honestly seeking the truth.

Does Father Brennan try to discredit them because he regards my findings as too uncomfortable to engage with? "While in Rome Bergoglio did not form as warm a relationship with the new superior general, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, as he had with his predecessor, Pedro Arrupe," says Fr Brennan eirenically, adding: "On his return, Bergoglio could not find his niche in the Argentine province." Yet the fifth chapter of The Great Reformer tells a rather more dramatic story: of Kolvenbach's intervention to unseat Bergoglio and his followers, and to install a leadership who set about dismantling Bergoglio's apostolate among the poor of San Miguel, provoking an angry response from an entire generation of younger Jesuits. Kolvenbach spurned Bergoglio on his trip to Argentina in 1988; and the former provincial was exiled to Cordoba and his followers sent abroad.

In Father Brennan's attempt to re-write these findings, he claims that Bergoglio "cut contact with most Jesuits." But not even Bergoglio's sternest critics in Argentina would agree it was Bergoglio who cut the contact: he was silenced as part of the new provincial leadership's attempt to clamp down on what they regarded as dissent.

Father Brennan believes that I am being "too simplistic" to say that "a small cabal in the Center for Social Research and Action (CIAS) campaigned against Bergoglio because he was too weak on social justice." No one among the Argentine Jesuits disputes that it was the senior CIAS intellectuals who lobbied Rome to remove Bergoglio's men from the leadership of the province, and I would be surprised if Father Brennan could claim the contrary. Yet I never say that the social justice issue was the only or main grievance, but carefully spell out their many different motives, some of which had to do with Bergoglio's decisions as provincial.

In respect of the controversy over Bergoglio's handling of the two abducted Jesuits, Father Brennan faults me for my "clearance of Bergoglio for failing to protect Jesuits during the dirty war without providing a coherent explanation for what occurred." This is odd, because my explanation is detailed and comprehensive, the most thorough to date; and Father Brennan seems to agree with my account.

He goes on to claim that there is a hypothesis that I do not entertain "but which on all the evidence seems likely". But the "hypothesis" seems to be more or less my own description of the two Jesuits refusing to leave the shanty-town community after Father Arrupe ordered them to leave. What exactly is the great explanation I have missed? That "Bergoglio was worried about the safety of his men constituting a community living in a poor area during the dirty war"? True, he was; but he never asked any Jesuit to stop working in the shanty towns in this period for their own safety; what he wanted (for reasons to do with religious life rather than security) was that at night they lived in a Jesuit residence, rather than in a base community - which is what Oswaldo Yorio and Franz Jalics refused to do.

Hugh Jackman

It's hard to know what to post about sometimes .... the awful terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo ... the latest outré comments from Cardinal Burke ... the Father Brown series on BBC?

Instead I guess I'll write about Hugh Jackman. I was trying to decide if I should rent a movie he's in, Prisoners, which also stars Jake Jake Gyllenhaal. The trailer makes the film seem good but maybe too disturbing for me ....

Here's a review of the movie from The Atlantic - Prisoners: Moral Exploration or Exploitation?.

But anyway, that reminded me of his appearance on the tv series Inside the Actor's Studio. Unfortunately, the film clips they discussed aren't shown in this video, so I guess I'm finally going to have to rent Les Misérables (to love another person is to see the face of God) ...

And here he is with his wife of 19 years .....

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The sea of ice

I bought two calendars for 2015 and one of them is a 365 day desk calendar of France. I wanted to learn more about France because I've only been there once, and then just to Paris really, so this is my chance to learn more about the country from which ancestors on both sides of my family have come ... yep, I'm at least half frog :) The first day of the calendar had a picture of the Mer de Glace ... a glacier located on the northern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif, in the Alps. At 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) long and 200 metres (660 ft) deep, it is the longest glacier in France.

- Mont Blanc, Dôme du Goûter and Aiguille du Goûter

We did actually drive through the Alps on our one trip to Europe but we didn't stop to see any glaciers. Here's a not very good pic of me sitting on a wall - you can barely make out the Alps towering behind me ...

I plan to post now and then about any interesting future bits from the calendar :)

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


It's a really nice sunny day here :) ....

Mouse is playing with an oak apple or an oak marble ...

The gray squirrel is looking for sunflower seeds ...

And Vicky is napping in the sun ...

Monday, January 05, 2015


My latest kindle book from the library is Inkspell by Cornelia Funke. It's one of my favorite books of all time, a fantasy, but I've never actually "read" it before, only listened to it because of my bad eyes ... now that it's in kindle, I have a chance to read it for the first time :)

The book is the second in the Inkheart trilogy and I've listened to the first book once, but I didn't like it a lot, so I've always re-listened to the second and third books of the trilogy, leaving out the first. The first book was made into a movie which starred Brendan Fraser as the main character in the trilogy, Mo ...

Two other characters from the book, Dustfinger and Gwin, were in the film as well ...

Here's the beginning of a review of the first book in The Guardian ...

Inkheart is a book about books, a celebration of and a warning about books. The "Inkheart" of the title is a book. I don't think I've ever read anything that conveys so well the joys, terrors and pitfalls of reading. Each chapter is headed by a quotation from a classic - Peter Pan, The BFG, The Wind in the Willows, The Hobbit and many more - which, in the traditional way of such quotes, often has little to do with the subject of the chapter. The headings work more as a rich sample of the books that lie behind Inkheart .

The basic, bookish idea is that Meggie's father Mo (often called Silvertongue) can, by reading aloud, fetch characters from a book through into the real world. Unfortunately, a living being is always transferred into the book at the same time. Nine years back, Mo read aloud from Fenoglio's Inkheart and unintentionally fetched all the baddies into reality, causing Meggie's mother to disappear into the book. The story opens with Meggie discovering this through the arrival of the unhappy trickster-figure, Dustfinger ...

And here's a trailer for the movie made of the first book ...

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Light through my bottled water


Thursday, January 01, 2015

Thomas More, good humor and burning people at the stake

Reading today that the pope prays to Thomas More ..... Pope Francis has revealed that he prays to the English martyr St Thomas More every day. In his annual end of year address to Vatican officials the Pope said that there is a prayer to the saint for good humour which he prays daily, saying that a healthy dose of humour in our daily lives is very beneficial.

I remember a bit about Thomas More - I read his Utopia in college and saw the old movie about him on tv once - but when I think of him, I recall instead his sending of Protestants to the stake to be burned. He was responsible as Chancellor for banning Protestant books and English translations of the New Testament, and six men were burned for heresy too during his chancellorship: Thomas Hitton, Thomas Bilney, Richard Bayfield, John Tewkesbery, Thomas Dusgate, and James Bainham. Here's a bit about this from History Today ...

More's role in events leading up to several burnings for heresy. In close co-operation with Stokesley, More arrested George Constantine for heresy in 1531. Constantine was a dealer in Protestant books, who gave away much information about his fellow reformers before escaping in early December. More had had him imprisoned in the stocks at his house in Chelsea, which he kept in his porter's lodge. But Constantine broke the frame, scaled More's garden wall and fled to Antwerp. Sir Thomas joked in his Apology that he must have fed the heretic properly for him to achieve this feat of strength. Yet More's humour was sadly inappropriate. It was on information gleaned from Constantine that Richard Bayfield, a Benedictine monk and book pedlar, was seized, interrogated by Stokesley and burned at Smithfield. Bayfield had been converted to Lutheranism by Robert Barnes, and when caught had in his possession books by Luther and Zwingli. Being a relapsed heretic, More described him in his Confutation as 'a dog returning to his vomit'. Next Sir Thomas caught a leather-seller named John Tewkesbury, who was also held at Chelsea until tried by Stokesley. On sentence, he was handed back to the secular arm and burned on December 20th, 1531. James Bainham, a Middle Temple lawyer, was then delated to More. Examined by Stokesley at More's house, he was found to own books by Tyndale, Frith and Joy. At first Bainham abjured and performed his penance, but later reaffirmed his Protestant faith. He was tried and burned at the stake in April, 1532. More's apologists cannot thus deny that Sir Thomas was personally involved in detecting three out of the six cases of heresy which resulted in burnings during his chancellorship. Neither was he inactive in two of the remaining cases. He railed in the Confutation at Sir Thomas Hitton, burned at Maidstone in 1530, as 'the devil's stinking martyr' who 'hath taken his wretched soul with him straight from the short fire to the fire everlasting'. He also launched a most irregular Star Chamber investigation into the question of Thomas Bilney's supposed recantation prior to his being burned in the Lollards' Pit in Norwich in August, 1531, using his powers as Lord Chancellor inquisitorially and in a style contrary to the Star Chamber's accepted procedure.

Yuck :(